Updated on August 4, 2016
Cloth Diapers on Vacation? Yes You Can!
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I just got back from a lovely family vacation. We spent two weeks on the West Coast visiting family, and getting a nice break from the daily grind of life at home. There’s one thing we didn’t take a vacation from, and that’s cloth diapers. That may sound crazy to you, but to me it makes total sense. Petit Prince is in cloth diapers full time. There’s not a disposable diaper in my house, not even “just in case” disposables (a doctor Petit Prince saw a few weeks ago asked me if I kept disposables around “just in case”… ). I wouldn’t have the first clue what size disposable to buy for Petit Prince at this point, let alone brand or style (there are different styles of disposables, right?). The last thing I want to do when I’m getting ready for a vacation is spend valuable packing time staring at a wall of diapers in the grocery store. Now you’re probably thinking the last thing you want to do on vacation is wash diapers or maybe you’re thinking cloth diapers take up way too much space in the suit case. Well, what if I told you I packed for two weeks away for a family of four INCLUDING cloth diapers for one, and we did carry on luggage only? No, I’m not kidding. If I can do it, anyone can do it! How did I do it? Let me share my wisdom!
The very first thing you’ll want to consider before deciding if cloth diapering on vacation is the right choice for you is the laundry facilities. If you’re going to be staying with family or renting a condo/house and there’s a washing machine in that house or condo, you can totally take your diapers. I’m all about keeping it simple, especially on vacation, and that means no coin-op laundry or trips to the laundromat. If there’s a washing machine where you’re staying, bring your cloth! If you’re concerned about trying to wash your diapers in a new washing machine or a style of washing machine that isn’t like the one you use at home, don’t be! The fundamentals of washing cloth diapers are the same whether you’re using an old school top loader or an HE front loader: short cold cycle with detergent, long hot cycle with detergent, no extra rinses.
Alright, so there’s a washing machine where you’ll be staying, what next? Bring enough diapers, but don’t bring too many. I’ve traveled with cloth diapers many times over now, and I’ve got it down to a science. The first time I traveled with cloth diapers was when The Heir was four months old. My biggest concern then was running out of diapers, and as a result I packed WAY too many. I think I might have brought my entire stash of 26. Now that I’m more experienced, I carefully consider how many diapers my child is actually going to go through over the course of two and a half days. Remember that you’ll have access to laundry, so you don’t need to bring enough diapers to last a whole week. Maybe at home you go four days between washing (that’s what I do), but while on vacation, for the purpose of saving space you should wash a little more frequently than you do at home. When Petit Prince was two months old, I packed 22 diapers. For this most recent vacation when Petit Prince was 12 months old, I packed 18 diapers. If you pack only 18 diapers and you find your child is going through them more quickly than you anticipated, throw them in the wash early! I know it’s hard not to panic when you put a diaper on your child and see you only have 3-4 clean ones left, but you can easily have a load of diapers washed and dried before those last few diapers are soiled!
Don’t pack brand new diapers that you haven’t prepped or tried on your child before. Maybe a new diaper just arrived in the mail a few days before your vacation, and you’re dying to get it on the bum. I get it, I really do, but you need to resist the temptation. The last thing you want to do is pack a bunch of new diaper styles only to find that those diapers don’t fit your child very well or absorb enough for your heavy wetter. Cloth diapering on vacation is the time to take your tried and true diapers, the styles that you know work for your child with no fuss. Save testing out that new brand for when you get home.
Bring three overnight cloth diapers. Although I do recommend packing enough diapers to get you through 2.5 days, you absolutely want to bring 3 overnight diapers. Why? Because the best time to wash your diapers is in the evening after your child has gone to bed for the night. Having three overnight diapers rather than just two allows you to wash every other evening without ever finding yourself short a super absorbent diaper for night time. If you find you have enough diapers to wash every third day, three overnight diapers allows you to start the wash first thing in the morning on the third day. Then you can dry your diapers on the line outside (if there is one!).
Don’t forget to pack your cloth wipes! If you’re a disposable wipes user, by all means, pack those for your vacation, but if you use cloth wipes at home, you can absolutely use them on vacation too. Don’t worry about a wipes solution or a wipes warmer, just run your cloth wipes under the tap to moisten as needed. Store them dry, wet right before you use them. If you’re a liniment user like me, you can bring your liniment on vacation (it’s perfect for wiping up sticky hands and faces after your preschooler’s ice cream cone melts all over them). I packed two 60ml travel size Les Produits de MaYa liniments in my diaper bag, and they lasted the full two weeks (and neither bottle came home empty).
Bring just one large hanging wet bag to store soiled diapers. At home, I rotate through two large hanging wet bags for storing soiled diapers until wash day. On vacation, I’d rather save the space in my suitcase and just pack one. After all, I survived with just one hanging wet bag the whole time The Heir was in diapers (I know, right?). If you don’t have a hanging wet bag that is 100% waterproof without fail, you might want to get one. On travel days you will be packing that hanging wet bag inside your suitcase with one or more soiled diapers in it and the last thing you want is to arrive at your destination with your clothing damp and smelly. The hanging wet bag in my stash that’s up to that challenge is my Planet Wise Hanging Wet/Dry bag (available from Lagoon Baby in Canada or Nicki’s Diapers in the USA). When you wash your diapers, throw your hanging wet bag in with them. If you need to change a few diapers while the hanging bag is in the wash, just use a smaller travel wet bag (the one that you normally keep in your diaper bag for outings).
How do you deal with drying diapers while on vacation? I do it much the same way I do at home: inserts/soakers in the dryer, and shells/AIOs hang to dry. At my parents’ condo, there really isn’t anywhere to hang the diapers to dry outside, so I hang them inside. No drying rack? No problem! Snap the diapers onto a few hangars and hang them on a door frame! At my parents’ beach house, I get to dry my diapers on the line outside in the fresh ocean breeze. It’s a view I could never tire of!
What about managing your diapers at home before you leave and on travel days? Wash your diapers the night before you leave on vacation (or if you’re departure is in the late afternoon/evening you can wash them in the morning before you go). We almost always depart on a morning flight, so the only dirty diaper that we’re traveling with is the overnight diaper. If you have to change that diaper a few times before you go, that’s okay too (that’s what I did for the journey home). Put any soiled diapers in the hanging wet bag that you’re packing, squeeze as much air out of it as you can, roll it up, and pack it! Remember that every soiled diaper in that wet bag is coming with you on vacation! So if you’re planning to pack 18 diapers for your vacation, factor in the soiled diapers into that total count (otherwise you’ll end up packing too many diapers).
How on earth do you actually fit 18-24 cloth diapers in a carry on suitcase and still have room for clothing? This is where you need to use your ninja skills. Your success with this part may depend on the style of diapers that you’re using. AIO diapers will take up a bit more space than AI2 diapers where you can bring just a handful of shells and 18-24 inserts/soakers. That doesn’t mean I think you should invest in AI2s for your vacation if that’s not the cloth diapering system you’re already using. I happen to love pocket diapers and there are a handful of AIO diapers in my stash that I can’t live without, and that’s what I packed for our vacation. On this last vacation I packed 14 pocket diapers, and 4 AIOs (if you count the GroVia ONE as an AIO). The way I successfully did this was by packing the diapers open and flat, and by separating pocket shells from their inserts. I pack all the diapers and wipes in the top of the suitcase. I use just a regular carry on size rolling suitcase, and fit most of the inserts and diaper shells in the mesh zippered area inside the top of the suitcase. The wipes and any stragglers that didn’t fit inside the mesh zippered pocket go in the larger zippered pocket on the outside of the suitcase. Don’t forget that you’ll be packing a few diapers and wipes in your diaper bag for the travel day. I had one diaper on Petit Prince’s bum and three in the diaper bag on our travel days. That left only fourteen diapers to fit into the suitcase (which fit no problem). It also leaves the entire main compartment of the suitcase EMPTY for your clothing, shoes, and the kids’ clothing. If you’re not packing like a ninja, it’s time to start. You’d be amazed at what you can fit in your suitcase if you pack this way!
There’s one more thing that I bring with me when I travel with our cloth diapers, and that’s detergent. I only recommend bringing your own detergent if your detergent ispowder, and if you are concerned that you won’t be able to get your preferred detergent at your destination (since I’m talking carry on luggage, you couldn’t bring liquid detergent and if you do check your bag and your liquid detergent leaks… yikes). I happen to know that finding a box of Tide Original HE powder is a bit of a challenge in the neighbourhood where my parents live. I can find the non-HE stuff, but the HE version wasn’t available the last few times we were there. The detergent that my mom uses is perfectly fine for cloth diapers too, but I just don’t like the scent. If you’re not overly picky, most mainstream detergents can be used for washing cloth diapers, so you could just rely on using whatever is in the house when you get there. If you’re like me and you’re picky about your detergent or aren’t sure you’ll be able to get your detergent at your destination (and it’s powder), pack some! I packed enough Tide to wash diapers every other day for the duration of our vacation in a large freezer ziploc bag. I also put my Tide scoop in that ziploc bag, and then I double bagged it (just in case). Yes it will take up a bit of room in the suitcase, but you don’t have to bring it home with you!
Now I know it’s a vacation, but the reality of a vacation with kids is that you’re going to be doing laundry anyway. Maybe you pack enough outfits to last two full weeks for everyone, but I would hazard a guess that the majority of families don’t do that. Since you’ll be washing laundry anyway, what’s a diaper load here and there? The machine does all the work anyway! You just toss the diapers in, start the machine, and get back to working on your tan with a margarita in hand.
Have you traveled with your cloth diapers before? How did it go? Would you do it again?